Today's Blogs

Religious Right, Center Stage

Roused by a flurry of op-eds, bloggers assess the role of religion in mainstream politics. They also respond to yesterday’s British elections and to one production company’s plan to release new movies to theaters, DVD, and television simultaneously.

Religious right takes center stage: In yesterday’s Washington Post, estimable conservative George Will lamented the “persecution complex” of American Christians, and particularly its use by conservative politicians, a day after John McCandlish Phillips complained, in the same pages, that major newspapers have been routinely overstating the religious zealotry of conservatives. Also yesterday, the Wall Street Journal hosted a head-to- head debate over the religious right between critical Christopher Hitchens (a Slate contributor) and supportive James Taranto.

At libertarian The QandO Blog, Dale Franks thinks the secularist fuss is mere alarmism. “Repeat after me,” he advises. “There is no theocracy in America.” Paul Mirengoff of conservative syndicate Power Line agrees, suggesting it’s the liberals who are behaving like reactionaries. “Our secular society traditionally has permitted, and been willing to consider, arguments founded on nearly all belief systems,” he writes. “However, in the aftermath of the 2004 election, our elites are concerned that the values of Christian fundamentalists are doing too well in our market place of ideas.”

“Verdict: Taranto by TKO,” declaresParagraph Farmer Patrick O’Hannigan. At Mossback Culture, socially liberal and fiscally conservative Richard Bennett gives a predictably even-handed reading of the debate. “It’s hard to argue,” he writes, with Taranto’s logic “that the courts have imposed specific policies on the country, such as legalizing abortion, that are actually the province of the legislative branch.” He applauds the responsible conservative movement to seek recourse electing like-minded representatives, but pleads, “No more mixing religion and politics, please. Voting your moral values is fine, but following the literal text of the Bible is delusional.”

“It doesn’t speak well for the Democratic party that this sort of thoughtful, civil discussion is happening wholly within a conservative-leaning publication,” says New York City “covert Republican” SomeJoe. “That’s healthy intellectual discourse, and there are too few liberals and Democrats participating.” Some, however, see ideological close-mindedness on both sides of the aisle. At BuzzMachine, critic Jeff Jarvis thinks even the sympathetic Will is being reductive and overly schematic. “Will doesn’t pull back quite far enough,” he writes, “for he contrasts only the religious fringe with the godless and leaves out the vast religious majority inbetween.” At Home of the mandinmories, Gambian network analyst Ousman Ceesay calls Will’s column a “reasonable reminder to the wingnuts.”

Read more about George Will’s column; John McCandlish Phillips’ column; and the Opinion Journal showdown between Hitchens and Taranto.

The listless election of Tony Blah: As expected, British elections yesterday returned embattled Tony Blair to Downing Street, albeit at the front of a Labor party hemorrhaging support nationwide. The chief gains in Parliament were made by the left-wing, anti-war Liberal Democrats.

“I was just hanging on the edge of my seat for … the outcome everybody expected,” writes Natasha Celine at liberal American blog Pacific Views. Many observers, like Madame Chiang in Hong Kong, see the shrinking Labor majority as a forecast of significant change down the road. “Britain should now have real three-party politics which should make the next election far more interesting,” she writes.

Others see even a slimming majority as a meaningful majority nonetheless. “For the labour party, this is an historic victory. Never before in the past century a leader of that party could win three times in a row,” writes Lorenzo Zucca at group law blog The TransAtlantic Assembly. For Blair, however, the election isn’t so much a victory as a preparatory step—to what Zucca sees as the prime minister’s inevitable campaign to lead the European Council. “I am not sure whether a scenario with Tony Blair as president of the European Council, and Bill Clinton as head of the UN is feasible,” he writes prophetically. “But I am confident they will give it a try.”

Read more about the elections.

Movies, movies everywhere:Following up on speculation in April’s Wired, billionaire Mark Cuban’s 2929 Entertainment has announced plans to buck convention and release at least six future films by Steven Soderbergh simultaneously to theaters, DVD, and television.

“I think it’s great to see a bold experiment like this take place with the once-sacred hollywood film release cycle,” says gadget enthusiast Matt Haughey, who sees the plan as sensible business, too. “I’ve long felt that much of online film trading comes from film fans stuck in ‘The Great Gap’ as I like to call it,” between a film’s time in the theater and its release on video. At LAist,Chris Ullrich is displeased. “Movies are made to be seen in a theater,” he moans. “It’s that simple.”

Read more blog posts about the experiment.

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